This encyclopedia is a Doctor Who treasure trove of information for whovians who have been through time and space with the good Doctor from the very beginning of his tenure on BBC more than 50 years ago. The book collects the history of the Time Lord’s travels in brief and presents and retells the stories of the characters that we encounter along the way; companions from Susan Foreman, to Clara Oswald, aliens as one-off as the Vashta Nerada, friends like Sally Sparrow and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and villains such as Davros and his army of Daleks.
The first portion of the book collects the different incarnations of the Doctor, and it progresses in a way that retells each of the Doctor’s adventures, carefully including the point of contact with each of the companions and friends encountered along the way, without spoiling the story too much. Fans of the show will be able to fill in a lot of the omitted information, while people who haven’t seen as much of it will find themselves wanting to learn more about the Doctor’s adventures. It is a quick read with a lot of information, but it leaves the reader wanting to fill in the gaps.
While at first it seems that the stories generally get told in a rushed manner, this is something that can be appreciated by both fans and new viewers of the show since it is a way of summarizing the complexity that is 50 years in the TARDIS. In itself, this didn’t leave me with the feeling that anything was missing in the story; what did give me that feeling was the fact that they only skimmed over the events of The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor. Admittedly, This may have been due to the timing of the publication, as the events of the specials would have happened long after the book was submitted for printing, so we may see them included in a later edition of the book.
Other than my superficial concerns of gaps in the timeline, I’m pretty impressed with the way they summarized and told the Doctor’s stories concisely and in a way that would appeal to both newer audiences and devoted fans.
I can’t neglect the fact that book obviously mentions the rest of the Who-niverse’s cast of characters. Each article provides information about the key moments for each character, more or less telling readers about the role that each plays in the Doctor Who mythos. I find that there was a weird balance between how much attention certain characters got compared to others. This wasn’t always necessarily a problem, though in some cases, it meant that characters who played a huge part in the plot had their entire plot spoiled. This is where I would recommend newcomers to the show be forewarned if they want to read ahead.
The character entries generally do a decent job of telling the characters’ stories, though they often run into the problem of spoiling the plot of some episodes while omitting key information. There are tidbits throughout that seem like they’re deliberately trying to keep some plot elements secret while inadvertently making other elements a bit too obvious, and it’s hard to really grasp a sense of what’s going on in some instances. The book also has moments of self awareness which are somewhat jarring, such as the entry about Clara Oswald beginning with, “[a] tricky entry this one.” That’s the biggest problem that I found in the latter section of the book. For all the plot points that it covers, the writing had a tendency to muddle up the clarity of the plot. One instance of this, in the entry about Amy Pond, reads: “Shortly after, Pond would become the inspiration for artist Vincent van Gogh and meet River Song(dressed as Cleopatra) a the Doctor discovered the Pandorica.” The confusion should be obvious.
The Who’s Who of Doctor Who is a good resource for fans of the show, and a reference for new viewers, but I would say that that is as far as it goes. It is a resource for anyone who wants to learn about the characters in the show, and discover characters that may not have been mentioned for a long time since the show began. The writing could be a lot better, and the plot could be presented more clearly than it was, but the layout is clean, what’s presented is brief, and the images going along side the entries are selected relatively well.
If you’re a fan of the show, or just getting into it, and really want to learn more about it, then this might be the book for you. If you’re a diehard Whovian who knows everything there is to know, and would like an authoritative resource, then I’d recommend waiting until something with information on the War Doctor comes out.